24/09/2010

PSNI Officers Hurt In Failed Blaze Rescue

The bravery of three PSNI officers who were injured while trying to rescue the victim of a west Belfast blaze overnight has just emerged.

All three were hurt and one officer, aged in his 20s, remains in hospital this morning.

The intense blaze broke out at a terrace house in Lenadoon Avenue in the Suffolk area at around 3am. Tragically, the 67-year-old man - just named as Joe Smith - died and his body was recovered in an upstairs bedroom.

It is understood the alarm was raised by a passer-by at about 3am and the cause of the blaze is under investigation.

A policeman and woman tried to break down the door of the house but were beaten back by heavy smoke.

Another police officer climbed a drainpipe and smashed a window but he was beaten back by the fire.
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Six fire appliances were called to deal with what the Fire Service described as an intense fire, which engulfed the ground and first floor of the house.

This afternoon, Sinn Fein Councillor for West Belfast, Gerard O'Neill, has spoken of the community's shock at the death of an elderly man in a house fire in Lenadoon.

"People are extremely shocked. The man who died was a good neighbour, a good friend - people got on extremely well with him. Our thoughts at this time are with his family and friends. The reaction locally is one of total shock," he said.

"The scene is one of complete devastation. It was a severe fire and there is smoke damage to two neighbours' homes," he continued, commending the emergency services: "The fire was intense and the police and firefighters worked hard to try and save Mr Smith.

"They were on the scene fairly quickly, dealing with a very difficult incident. It was a raging house fire and their professionalism ensured the fire did not spread. They should be commended for their actions."

(BMcC/GK)

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